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Dangerous Drug Interactions

“Okay, I’m going to say it: The heroin epidemic was caused by the legalization of marijuana.” That’s Don Winslow, who wrote The Cartel and has been covering the drug wars for years. Winslow is not talking about pot as some kind of gateway drug. Instead, he’s talking about the business of drugs. “We wanted legal weed, and for the most part, we got it. Four states have legalized it outright, others have decriminalized it, and in many jurisdictions police refuse to enforce the laws that are on the books, creating a de facto street legalization. Good news, right? Not for the Sinaloa Cartel.” From Esquire: El Chapo and the Secret History of the Heroin Crisis.

Is It Safe?

If a random individual is determined to commit a violent crime — and is willing to die in the process — there’s not a lot we can do to stop it. That’s one of the lessons learned in the 15 years since 9/11; a period during which we’ve gotten a lot better at deterring major terrorist acts, and had to come to terms with lone wolf actors directly tied to (or merely inspired by) terror groups. In an Atlantic cover story, Steven Brill looks at the state of our safety after spending more than $1 trillion trying to boost it. Are we safer? “Our defenses are far stronger, but what we have to defend against has outpaced our progress.”



The NextDraft newsletter is now on WIRED.com. Every Friday, mastermind Dave Pell visits the far reaches of the web to bring the news you missed. Politics, tech, science—you name it, and it’s here.

(Original story reprinted with permission from NextDraft.)

With Friends Like These…

Ever get a little freaked out when someone you barely know describes you as a dear friend? Would it surprise you if a person you thought of as your BFF thought of you as more of an acquaintance? (Cat owners know this feeling all too well.) It turns out that different perceptions about friendship are quite common. “Recent research indicates that only about half of perceived friendships are mutual. That is, someone you think is your friend might not be so keen on you. Or, vice versa, as when someone you feel you hardly know claims you as a bestie.” From the NYT: Do Your Friends Actually Like You?

What the Buck?

Question: What can a hundred bucks buy you in California? Answer: About $89. The NYT provides an interesting look at the relative value of $100 in each state.

Top Banana

“It’s the world’s most consumed fruit and spans generations as food for both toothless babies and the toothless geriatric. It’s soft, sweet, and easy to digest. It crosses historical eras, has been responsible for entire governments rising and falling, and has propped up beleaguered economies. If fruits were countries, the banana would be the world’s superpower. If fruits were pop stars, the banana would be Beyoncé.” From NatGeo, part one of a three-part series: The Miracle of the Modern Banana. (No, this isn’t a story about Orlando Bloom on a stand-up paddle board.)

Five Ring Circus

You know how you can never get one certain song out of your head? Well, for Michael Phelps, that song is the National Anthem. If he were a country, he would be 39th on the all-time Olympics gold medal leaderboard. He also beat a 2,168-year-old Olympic record.

+ NYT: How the U.S. Crushed the Competition in the Women’s Gymnastics Team Final.

+ “The Olympics allows the best athletes in the world to thrill us with their mind-blowing dedication and excellence. And it affords the rest of us the opportunity to do what we do best: Sit on the couch and use social media to judge people who are actually doing something.” That’s just one of my 15 Thoughts on the 2016 Couch Olympics.

+ That time a 9-year-old Katie Ledecky got an autograph from Michael Phelps.

+ “Fifty percent of track athletes who rank in the top 10 in the U.S. in their event earn less than $15,000 annually from the sport.” They work hard. They often lose money. And they miss out on years during which they might be building up their earning potential. From The Conversation: How do Olympic athletes pay the electric bill?

Things Fall Apart

“It is unprecedented for us to focus so much energy and attention on a single story, and to ask our readers to do the same. We would not do so were we not convinced that what follows is one of the most clear-eyed, powerful and human explanations of what has gone wrong in this region that you will ever read.” The NYT Magazine dedicates an entire issue to the story of how things have gone so wrong since the invasion of Iraq: Fractured Lands: How The Arab World Came Apart.

Taking the Fifth on the Second

If Trump gets any more controversial, he could be the first candidate to receive classified briefings that include the threat of himself. This week, his remarks about the Second Amendment and Hillary Clinton (“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”) have once again raised the ire of everyone from journalists to top players in his own party. It’s also a comment that should be rejected by gun owners.

+ “On other campaigns, we would have to scrounge for crumbs. Here, it’s a fire hose. He can set himself on fire at breakfast, kill a nun at lunch and waterboard a puppy in the afternoon. And that doesn’t even get us to prime time.” Time takes you inside Trump’s post-convention meltdown.

+ It’s unclear whether it’s a meltdown or a strategy. A day after Trump shocked everyone with his comments about Hillary and the Second Amendment, he said something worse. And this time, there’s no need to parse what he meant. He repeated it four times, and stood by it the next day. All of which prompted me to explain why politicians can’t endorse him without endorsing this.

+ The most amazing stat of the election season so far: Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has spent $52 million on ads. Donald Trump’s campaign has spent zero.

Puck Everlasting

“Air hockey, like life, requires the relinquishing of certain dignities and, especially, the abandonment of lingering myths about control. If you call up a couple of professional matches on YouTube — plenty of championship games have been archived online, most shot furtively, on cell phones — you will witness a few moments of true virtuosity and a whole lot of what looks like panicked bumbling.” In The New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich gives us the air hockey think-piece we needed. “I can say with some certainty that the most beautiful sound I know is the wobbly clink of a dinged-up air-hockey puck dropping into goal.” (Aside from the sound of my cats eating dry food and my dogs drinking water out of a bowl, I agree.)

Bottom of the News

“Most of us believe that Antarctica is not a continent, but rather, the Earth is a disk, the North Pole is at the center and Antarctica is an ice wall around the perimeter. There is no solar system. I mean, there’s a sun, obviously, and a moon and stars, because we can see them. You can also observe the flat Earth with your eyes.” Mic introduces you to some of the people who are quite sure the Earth is flat. (This reads like a subliminal get-out-the-vote advertisement.)

+ If we’re reading this bill correctly, Italy is considering jailing parents who make their kids go vegan.

+ The Olympics is a reminder that humans are pretty great at sports. Just not compared to other animals.

+ However, no other mammal has successfully solved a Rubik’s Cube while skydiving.

+ Squirrel, GoPro, enough said.

+ CNN: Do your genes decide when you lose your virginity? (That would explain why I spent so many years sitting home alone reading about Crispr.)

This is a weekly best-of version of the NextDraft newsletter. For daily updates and to get the NextDraft app, go here. (Original story reprinted with permission from NextDraft.)

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